Friday, February 27, 2009

The fun of naming a baby

Looking over a list of Scottish boy names:

Jordan: Norval? Norval sounds like a whale.
Me: A whale?
Jordan: You know, like a type of whale.
Me: Oh, I thought you meant like... Moby.
Jordan: Or Willy?
Me: Or um... Somebody who makes popcorn.
Jordan: Norval Redenbacher!

I laugh a lot easier when I am pregnant.

We don't know what we're having yet. We don't know what the name will be yet. Let me know if you think of anything good--especially for a boy.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Milkshakes without ice cream?

Right now, I am sitting here enjoying a delicious milkshake. I love milkshakes, and this one makes me especially happy because I made it at home with stuff I already had in my cabinets. And I didn't use any ice cream. In the past, the only decent milkshakes I've had have come from fast food establishments. My own, made in the blender with ice cream, milk, and chocolate syrup, were a far, lumpy cry from what I really wanted. Until now.

Today I got an email from a friend--no words, just a link to the Hillbilly Housewife's new website. I had heard of her, but when I last visited the website was under construction. So I clicked the link and tried to decide what to look at first. That's when I saw the link to making milkshakes without ice cream. I tried it and within five minutes I had a milkshake that tasted like it could've come from a fast food place. This is very exciting, because next time I have a milkshake craving I will not have to drive all the way out to Hardee's and pay way too much for it. Usually I just tough it out, but now I won't have to.

So, Susanne, thank you, you wonderful wonderful person. I will definitely be back to read more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Monk-Mee and Frosty talk about

I don't know, but Suzi was facilitating a serious conversation between them on our way back from Asheville Sunday.

Once we left the nurse-in discussion we had just enough time to drop by this awesome shop called The Littlest Birds. I think that is where Beth got her cloth diapers, so knowing it was there I looked it up. I was like a kid in a candy shop, so you can imagine how Suzi was. They had stacks of gorgeous wooden toys that were calling both our names. They had carriers, Plan Toys, a ton of cloth diapers... And we had less than 30 minutes to look, because they were closing at 4:00!

Suzi and Jordan looked around while I asked the lady working there a bunch of questions about CDing a newborn (I've never done it; we started Suzi when she was eight months old). She recommended Kissaluvs, which I liked but couldn't justify buying new. I ended up with Snappis, some newborn prefolds, a couple of Bummis covers (below) and a ProRap. We will see how they handle newborn blowouts and then look into buying more of whichever diaper cover emerges victorious. They're pretty though, huh?

Suzi fell in love with a Plan Toy drum, but it was $20 and we decided to wait on that. It may make a nice Easter or birthday gift. We will definitely be returning to The Littlest Birds at least once before August. She was sad she wasn't getting her drum, but I spotted a cute little snowman I knew she would love (on clearance, too) and that cheered her up. She'd been such a sweet girl all day and deserved a little something.

Especially when you consider what I got. In a pile on the bottom of the clearance shelf I spotted a beautiful fire-toned Storchenwiege wrap. I'd admired Julie's at babywearing, but never thought I'd get one because they retail for over $100! Well, this one had been marked down three times and the final price was $52! You can scarcely find a used one for that. My collection shrunk a little recently when I sold two hotslings to a new mom, so if you think about it I'm just trading up and diversifying. Just to be sure I'd gotten a good deal, I searched for one on eBay when I got home and found this. It's the same wrap I got and sold for about $46.50 (it was already sold, so I couldn't have gotten it for that). The listing was in German so I couldn't tell what the seller had said about it. It was used though, and they charged the winner 19 Euros to ship it from Hamburg to the UK--and that wouldn't have been a good deal for me. Therefore, this is one impulse buy I don't regret! The colors are perfect for a summer baby. I tried it out once with Suzi, but I'll need some help later figuring it out with a newborn.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nobody puts baby in the bathroom

Today Jordan and I went to Denny's in Asheville to support Crystal Everitt and all nursing moms. (For good pictures, go here; see links at bottom of post for video.) We arrived around 12:30 after picking up lunch elsewhere. No one had gathered yet at that time, but it was easy to tell a couple of people were waiting in their cars for the nurse-in to begin. We started talking to one mom who had driven in from Greenwood with her one-year-old son. She even brought a sign (I wish I had made one). Around 1:00, Crystal and the others, mostly from Asheville, arrived and began assembling. To my surprise, there were about as many men as women there! (So much for this being just a bunch of exhibitionist women "showing off." Bang goes that theory.) I was so proud and thankful for Jordan not only being there, but being involved and interested. He even raised some good points in the post-nurse-in discussion, and it meant a lot to me. The Asheville crowd was so prepared. They had been in contact with the police to find out what our rights were as far as being there, and knew where Denny's property ended and public property began.

Once all the lactivists, reporters and photographers had shown up, Rick Pate, Denny's regional director, came out to speak with Crystal. He asked if they could "chat." It was clear he wanted to do this alone--not in front of all those cameras and people--but Crystal wisely told him she would talk to him right there. With a crowd of supporters behind her, Crystal listened to his insincere backhanded "apology." He stated that his goal was to create a dining environment which was "inoffensive for everyone." He said, I believe, that this included Crystal and other nursing mothers. He said we were all welcome to come in and eat lunch and nurse our babies. Then the questions came. Crystal handled it beautifully and knew just what to ask. I couldn't believe how cool and collected she was, especially being put on the spot. She said it seemed to her he was saying women could breastfeed their babies, but the management of Denny's was going to tell them how to do it. He claimed that's "not what he said." She asked if he expected women to go nurse in the bathroom, and he said that wasn't what he said either. Crystal asked, "Where did you expect me to go, then, if you wanted me somewhere more 'private' and the restaurant was full? My car or the restroom?" He didn't have an answer and kept talking in circles. Most importantly, he declined to reassure us that no more mothers would be asked to leave for breastfeeding their children, and this was unacceptable. He refused to give any information about supposed complainants, what was or wasn't done to correct the manager responsible, and refused to share video footage of the incident. At the end of the exchange, he'd made a fool of himself (with Crystal's help) while making it clear than Denny's had every intention of continuing to allow its staff to harass and discriminate against nursing mothers.

Therefore, the nurse-in continued. We knew we could be arrested for trespassing if we didn't get off the property, so everyone filed into the 3' wide grass-and-bushes area right in front of the restaurant. Some moms nursed, but Suzi wasn't in the mood and it's difficult for me to nurse her while I'm standing up. It was also cold and windy, and flurries of snow swirled through the air. We got lots of attention from passing cars--and once, or so I heard, the finger.

By 2:00 they decided to adjourn to a (much warmer) meeting place at a local cafe. Possible next steps were discussed because, seeing as how the police were ready to arrest Crystal for trespassing, more does need to be done. The North Carolina law states that breastfeeding is allowed "notwithstanding any other provision of law." To me, this means it should trump trespassing laws, but some say it is only referring to public indecency. There needs to be clarification, or better yet, an enforcement clause so that businesses will think twice before allowing their employees to humiliate a mother. Some states do have provisions for enforcement in their breastfeeding legislation, but this is lacking in North and South Carolina.

What other legal activity could get a person kicked out of a restaurant? If someone was smacking loudly with his mouth open, burping, or farting, and I complained to management about it, they would probably offer to seat me in a separate area of the restaurant. Several times before in restaurants other than Denny's I have complained about cigarette smoke, being seated too close to the smoking section. They don't go over and extinguish the person's cigarette with a cup of water. They move the complainant. So, assuming customers were genuinely offended by seeing part of Crystal's breast, I'd say these other examples set a precedent for the action which should have been taken. If the manager had wanted to maintain an "inoffensive" family-friendly environment for everyone, she should have offered to move the offended parties. Instead, she blew her top, probably over some personal hang-up she had with breastfeeding, and made a scene. Denny's caused the problem. Not Crystal Everitt.

This is not about breasts. Breasts are hanging out all over the world, but how many people do you see going up to buxom bikini-clad beauties on the beach and telling them to put a towel around it? Not many. How many of these keep-it-modest whiners would go into Victoria's Secret and ask them to please take down their display posters because the bulging breasts are just too explicit for the 12-year-old boys passing by? None that I know of. Nope. This is about breastFEEDING. These people are grossed out by the act itself, particularly when the child being fed is over a certain arbitrarily chosen age. And who suffers? The mothers, but more importantly, the children. Children who should have been breastfed but whose mothers didn't think it was socially acceptable. Children whose mothers wean too early because they are terrified to nurse in public and give formula instead until their supply dwindles. Children who could have avoided illness with their God-given birthright of mother's milk, but were denied the chance. And, ultimately, this closed-mindedness hurts our entire society.

I could go on. Oh, believe me, I could. In particular, I have opinions about the effects of a mother's decision not to breastfeed on society as a whole. I will save that for another post. In the meantime, if you are still confused about why babies need to breastfeed in public, please read my detailed explanation here.

Interesting video footage:

Rick Pate is stumped!
Protester explains things, passersby reacting in background
He couldn't say what he said, only what he didn't say
Whistling a slightly different tune

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Labor: Swimming in the ocean

When I went into labor with Suzi, one of the first things Jordan and I did was go for a sunrise walk at our local university where he worked. He unlocked the door to his building so I could use the bathroom, because most everything was locked and no one was around. I still remember the lady who was up early cleaning the floors, who smiled and said hello when I walked past her. We walked and walked until I got tired. It was so peaceful. A completely untouched day.

But it didn't stay that way. As the contractions got heavier and heavier, we wondered when would be the best time to head for the hospital which was half an hour away. We erred on the side of what we thought was caution and went in early. A few hours later my water was broken (artificially) and I was stuck in bed working through the contractions as best I could. Contractions. The word itself is painful. Every time one came I clenched my teeth, grabbed the bedrail, and whispered "Oh God, oh Jesus" as the nurses and my family watched, totally clueless, and wondered when I'd give in and get the epidural. I thought I could get through it if I only had an hour or two to go. That's when a nurse came in and checked me and said I was only 5-6 centimeters and it could be three or more hours before it was over. I freaked out and had the epidural, at which time I dilated a little quicker than I had been. Now why would that be?

I recently read an interview on which featured Ina May Gaskin discussing her theory of Sphincter Law. (About that same time my midwife posted about the detrimental effect of vaginal exams during labor on her blog, which I think is related. See last section.) Long story short, Ina May believes the cervix is a sphincter, and that when we are frightened, all our sphincters tighten--the cervix included. I feel this applies unquestionably to my labor with Suzi. I was wound up tight and just couldn't seem to relax! How was my cervix supposed to open when my mind and everything else was closed?

I have been reading Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery over the past few weeks and have learned a lot from the attitudes encouraged and the way they play out in the birth stories shared in the first part of the book. Instead of "contractions," the women on the Farm have "rushes." Instead of trying to ignore them (duh, you can't!) they work with them, knowing that each one is bringing them closer to meeting their baby. Ina May refers to rushes not as painful but as "an interesting sensation which requires all of your attention." In some of the birth stories, women say they are happy to be working through the rushes because "they get the baby out!"

It helps me see where I went wrong. I thought of my "contractions" as horribly painful torture I would have to endure until, at long last, my cervix was open and I could begin pushing. I didn't work with them; I fought against them. I wished myself out of labor, which made no sense. I didn't want to be pregnant forever!

As I daydream about how my labor will play out with this baby, I've been trying to integrate everything I've heard and read into a visualization that will be helpful and productive. I've come up with a couple of things. I thought of them myself, but they are inspired by Spiritual Midwifery and articles I've read. This one was particularly influenced by things I've read and heard about visualizing your labor as waves in the ocean. It has probably been done before, but here it is and I'm hoping it will end up working for me come August.

I am swimming out in the ocean past the breakers, just floating along. When I swim for the shore a little, the calm ocean starts to get a little choppy. I can feel myself rising and falling with the water. As I swim a little closer I can feel actual waves starting to form and rise against my back, pushing me gently toward the shore, and then the undercurrent pulling me back a little. After swimming this way for a while, the waves get choppier and choppier until they are peaking and turning white when they splash back down. Over the glimmering water I can see my baby sitting on the shore waiting for me, and every wave brings me closer to him. He smiles as though he knows I will be there soon. My arms ache for him and I swim faster, but the current gets so strong that I'm worried it will pull me under before I can get to him. The waves are big and intimidating, but after getting knocked under a few times and coming back up I realize that they are going to take me to my baby if I hit them just right. I start to swim for the top of the wave, getting there just before it breaks, and let them carry me in. Just when I think the waves couldn't get much bigger, and wonder if I can handle another one, my feet brush sand. Knowing I am almost on shore holding my baby, I part walk, part swim through the last few waves until I am only waist-deep in water and can walk the rest of the way. I begin to run toward him as he watches and waits for me. I scoop him up and lie down to hold him, exhausted, tiny waves lapping against the sand in front of us.

This is a rough draft. I think I might take after the ladies at the Farm and abandon the word "contraction" altogether. I haven't decided what to call them yet. Maybe waves. Maybe "God breezes" (borrowed from FlyLady; see my next post). A God breeze is bound to feel better than a contraction!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Married to a geek

I know I've said we don't have cable, but I haven't said much about what we do have. Jordan made us a home theater PC. He custom built it for around $300 in parts he ordered online. At first I questioned whether we needed to make such a large purchase for entertainment, but we had a little extra money at the time (it was a few months ago) and some of it was his birthday money. For Jordan, half the fun was putting it all together. Some guys enjoy golfing, but Jordan prefers geeking. (Although he does enjoy golf too.)

This thing, which is a little smaller than a regular PC, does a lot for us. Most importantly, it contains a digital tuner so we can watch TV with our antenna. He put Windows Media Center on it, which allows us to view something kind of like the TV Guide channel--something I missed from having cable. I like to see what's coming on so I don't miss something important. But you know what's cool? Just like TiVo, we can set it to record shows. Jordan records Everybody Loves Raymond for me so I can watch it whenever I get bored, and we also record American Idol, which is handy because I often fall asleep near the end of it. Last night Suzi was watching Mary Poppins and we didn't want to cut her off unexpectedly, so we recorded American Idol while she watched Mary Poppins. Then we turned Idol on and fast-forwarded through the commercials!

And my favorite thing is that we can stream Netflix right onto our TV. Anyone can stream it onto their computer, but who wants to watch a movie in front of a computer monitor? We pay $9.95 a month to get one DVD at a time and unlimited streaming, which is still cheaper than renting a movie at Blockbuster and then having to pay full price for it after forgetting to take it back for like a year. Most of Netflix's movies and shows are not streamable, but we are discovering all kinds of fun stuff to watch.

So I'm proud of Jordan. The picture is of him giving Phibby a mani-pedi (well, pedi-pedi) earlier tonight. I don't have a picture of him putting a computer together.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's like you're a hobo or something

This was a remark made to my husband by one of his coworkers yesterday. Apparently, Jordan was digging through the recycling bin at the office looking for Coke caps. He likes to enter the codes online to get free stuff. When he told me that I laughed and suggested we visit the local recycling center to see what we could get there. It was rather disappointing--we only found seven or eight caps, because people are required to remove them before the bottles can be recycled.

As we drove around talking and looking for recycling bins, we reminisced about some of the finds we've made in the past. During a particularly hot summer in a particularly stuffy apartment, one of our fellow tenants who was moving out left a like-new rotating fan out by the dumpster. We picked it up and it's made the rounds--our apartment, my mother's house, Jordan's work. Generally, the best time to dumpster-shop (in most any college town, I'd imagine) is right after move-out at the start of summer, and again during move-in in the fall. People leave furniture and all kinds of things they decided at the last minute not to take home or use. We've never actually been in a dumpster--but not everyone shrinks from it.

The things that show up in our lives for free (or nearly free) amaze me. We've seen over and over that if we spend our money wisely (and, usually, even if we don't) God will get us what we need one way or another.

As people in this country are realizing that, heaven forbid, they are about to be forced to wear last year's clothes, and are calling this a negative change in our standard of living, I am wondering if it's not a good thing. There are people out there buying their teenagers Hummers to drive. Women are having biweekly mani-pedis. Everything is disposable. We've had it coming.

The only way a lot of people will save money is if they no longer have it to spend. For some, this means the credit cards are maxed out. For us, it was realizing we may need to use a credit card one day soon if we didn't watch it. We reevaluated our priorities and I am proud of our progress.

As Christians, we try to stay out of debt as much as possible. It is clear to me that excessive spending, especially when it leads to debt, is not what God wants for us. Debt makes us slaves to someone or something other than God. It dictates where our money goes, and that means we are less and less able to use it to help others. This is the reason behind the way of life of the Burts, whose blog I linked near the top of this post. They make plenty of money to live a wasteful lifestyle, but have made the decision not to.

I have no doubt that our current financial situation will change for the better eventually, but for us personally, it isn't bad now. This is just an opportunity to get creative! We've made a game of it, seeing what expenditures we can avoid and how much we can save on groceries each week. My favorite book at the moment is The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. (Find a cheap used copy on Amazon or The woman is a genius. If you are concerned about our country's financial climate, I highly suggest you order this book. It will save you money, but think of the larger goal: A simpler life. Less waste. A healthier environment. It's all connected.

Friday, February 13, 2009

If you don't support breastfeeding in public...

You DON'T support breastfeeding. Period.

I'm sorry, I know I have made quite a few preachy posts about breastfeeding already. I just want to post this one while it's on my mind today, and then I'll try to dig up some cute pictures of Suzi or a list of things I'm thankful for :-)

If you don't support breastfeeding in public, please stop lying and saying you are in favor of moms nursing their kids in private. You can't ride the fence like that!

If you really supported moms nursing their babies, you wouldn't be so disgusted by it as to insist it only be done out-of-sight.

If a mom needed help with her latch or position, you'd never be able to help her because you are so immature you'd faint dead away at the sight of her nipples.

If you support nursing but not in public, you must be in favor of one of the following:
A) babies going hungry for hours at a time
B) moms never leaving their homes and being shunned like second-class citizens
C) dining in restrooms and other disgusting, uncomfortable places.

Any of those sound good to you?

If moms don't breastfeed in public, how will future mothers figure out that it's the right thing to do? How will they identify with anyone or find help when they need it?

It makes no sense! So please, don't say "I'm all for breastfeeding BUT." Just say you'd prefer if all moms formula fed for your own selfish comfort and be done with it.

Anybody going to the nurse-ins, by the way? I've never been to one and was thinking of going to Asheville if no one will be at any of our local Denny's restaurants. It's 1:00 pm on Sunday, February 22nd. Jordan even said he would go with me. He's a prince :-) (See, that's one positive thing I said in this post!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You have a right to blow carcinogens in my face, but...

Our babies don't have the right to EAT?

I just called Denny's in Asheville, not to blast the unsuspecting employee who answered, but simply to ask this:

Do you have a smoking section?

And the answer was yes.

So, basically, adult persons with a completely unnecessary and harmful habit have the right to smoke in front of everyone, including children, and blow it all over the restaurant. Because let's face it: smoke never wants to stay in its "section," does it? It's sort of airborne that way.

In this same restaurant where children are expected to breathe harmful smoke while they eat their eggs, it's just UNHEARD OF for a person to be asked to turn her head if she doesn't want to see a mom breastfeeding. These so-called Christians can come out of church and head over to Denny's for lunch where they judge, harass, and complain about an innocent mother just trying to nurse her child. And then their actions will be supported and rewarded by the establishment.

Remind me NEVER to go to Denny's again.

Here's the full story if you missed it. This took place in Asheville, NC where there are laws protecting breastfeeding in public. Denny's decided they just didn't care.

Product Review: chicks-n-chickens Lullaby Exercises

I just had my butt kicked by an exercise DVD--in a good way. What was it, you ask? Well, it wasn't an intensely choreographed routine demonstrated by a bunch of flawless ponytailed women in head-to-toe spandex. Actually, it was chicks-n-chickens Lullaby Exercises, with mom Darcy Novo Albrecht leading a group of lovely mamas and their babies in a simple, fun, and fast routine that any mom can work into her schedule. You're taking care of your baby anyway; might as well work in a little you time!

I loved so many things about this DVD.

The music is good! There are certain situations in which we must listen to music we did not choose. Sometimes that music isn't so great, such as the strange techno music on my Dance Dance Revolution games (NOT babywearing-friendly, by the way). The music Darcy chose for Lullaby Exercises is good. It's something I'd listen to by choice. During the workout I was thinking, gosh, it would be nice to have a CD of this! Then I remembered--there was one in the case! You can enjoy the music and play the sleepy songs to calm your baby. I am thinking of including at least one of the songs in my homebirth soundtrack.

The moms are so fun to watch. For me, there is nothing fun about exercising alongside a woman with a figure like a Barbie Doll. It was refreshing to see moms of all shapes and sizes leading the exercises with Darcy. It made me feel at home. Darcy is adorable and upbeat. I loved how she incorporated inspirational musings about calming and nurturing our babies in the routines.

I didn't trip over my own feet and fall on my face. This is important when you're wearing your baby! The few times I've tried any dance-type exercise program, the steps have been over my head. (I was a five-year-old dance class dropout.) But Darcy demonstrates and explains everything several times to make it easy, and none of the steps are too complicated in the first place. You can do the whole thing holding your baby, after all!

It facilitates bonding with baby while allowing mom to get what she needs. This is my favorite. When baby is screaming, your first priority as a mom is to hold him and love him until he feels better. You drop what you're doing and take the baby. Sometimes this calls for creative multitasking (when Suzi was a couple of days old, I once had to breastfeed her while on a sitz bath). Being so suddenly in demand can be frustrating, but this DVD helps mom and baby relax by turning a potentially tense situation into a bonding opportunity. I particularly love "Patience," the last song in the Sleep Set.

The price is affordable. I didn't check the price before I tried the workout. As I went through the routines and thought about what I would write in my review, I wondered what the price would be. I honestly figured it would cost at least $30, maybe $40. But, wow, it is only $14.95! For that you get the DVD with the exercises and the CD with Lisa Phenix's beautiful music. Shower gifts, here we come!

I am currently 15 weeks pregnant and my midwife approved of this workout. This DVD is perfect for me. I can exercise at home while I take care of my daughter--even if she's in a bad mood. I can't wait to try the routine with a little infant, and this fall I'll get to!

Order your copy of Lullaby Exercises and feel good about staying home from the gym for once. Exercise with your baby held close to your heart instead of leaving them with somebody else.

Monday, February 9, 2009

15 weeks

Today I am 15 weeks. This is according to my calculations based on my LMP of 10/27. Our midwife gave us a slightly later date, which is fine with me. I was late with Suzi and won't be surprised if I'm late again! But, since I've already gotten my ticker and pregnancy calendar all set for 8/3, I will just stick with that for now.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How we get by without cable, part two

Suzi is running around with a toy milk bottle saying "Daddy, shum? Mama, shum?" When we are having a snack we always ask her if she "wants some," so she extends the same courtesy to us.

Earlier she farted and tried to blame it on her doll. "Toot-toot, baby!"

Friday night she came to ask me for some of what I was eating, but I knew it was something she didn't like, so I told her she was "barking up the wrong tree" (a little phrase I learned from my mother). I told her to "go bark up that tree over there," meaning she should go ask her dad for some of what he was eating. She walked past him over to the window and said "woof, woof, woof!"

At the park today she went down the big slide (which she calls the sliding board, as she probably learned from grandma and grandpa) all by herself... at least 15 times! That made for a nice long nap.

Chicken nuggets she calls chick-pah-pah. She calls chips chipmunks. Normally we get chips out for her and hand them to her, but right now she is sticking her tiny little arm down into the bag nearly up to her shoulder, plucking out a chip, and proudly saying "I found chipmunk!"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sling giveaway alert

Kristin over at Bits and Pieces From My Life is giving away a sling! She reviewed three and is giving away winner's choice of one. The contest ends Friday the 13th at 9 pm. I really like this one, the Rockin' Baby Sling. It is beautiful but expensive, which is why I'm hoping to win one :-) It is getting harder and harder to explain to Jordan why I need to buy another baby sling.

I mostly got over my sling fever when Suzi got big enough to walk on her own, but now that I'm pregnant again I can't help but think how cute the new baby will look peeping out from a gorgeous new ring sling!

Kristin also reviewed a pouch sling from the same company and a hotsling, so go enter!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Magical bread

A couple of days ago my mom brought me a fabulous hand-me-down gift: a bread machine, plus two cookbooks to go with it. I think she could commiserate with my desire, but lack of time or energy, to make bread. When she was a little younger than me, she decided to make bread from scratch one day while my brothers, Brad (2 years) and Paul (2 months), were supposedly taking a nap. As she was kneading dough and congratulating herself on being so domestic, she thought it might be a good idea to check on the kids. Well, Brad had figured out how to work the latch on the screen door and had escaped. She frantically checked the whole house and the yard before taking off down the street. She left the baby in the crib asleep. There was a pond nearby and her first thought was that Brad must have waded into it and drowned, but luckily he was just down the street playing with some other kids in a ditch.

There is no way I could turn my back on Suzi long enough to make bread the old-fashioned way. I would probably have my hands floured up for about ten seconds before she demanded a snack or a DVD to watch. But the bread machine is amazing. Jordan and I went to the store and purchased about $12 of groceries we would need to make bread. My mom gave me a jar of yeast, which she buys in bulk, and I already had a few of the ingredients at home.

We spent a few dollars up front, but most of the things we bought will last for weeks or even months of bread making. I'm not very good at math, but I would venture to say that we are now able to make our own bread for 75 cents - $1.00 a loaf--less if I can get some flour on sale. The only bread I've been able to find for that cheap is store brand, which I hate. Bread is one of the few things I insist on buying brand-name. We usually spend about $3.00 on it.

Using the bread machine is kind of like doing laundry; you don't have to knead the dough and let it rise and come back and put it in the oven. You don't have to get your hands dirty. The other night I made my first loaf and kept peeking in the top window with a flashlight to see what the machine was doing. Just throw the ingredients in, turn it on, and let the smell of fresh-baked bread fill your house. Then pop it out and butter it! (Well, you do have to cut it, of course.)

Unlike a lot of store-bought bread, I know exactly what's in it. Eggs, water, honey, flour, oatmeal, yeast, salt... No weird stuff. Yum.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Worst toy of the year... What's your vote?

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) is presenting its first ever TOADY Award (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young Children) this February. The award will go to the year's worst toy, which will champion violence, squash imagination, promote irresponsible consumerism, or, like this Barbie, steer young girls toward certain gender roles.

I voted for Barbie, but let me qualify that. I used to play with Barbies. I loved Barbies. My favorites were a Barbie family I only vaguely remember receiving as a gift--from my parents, I think. There was Barbie, the mother, with her frizzy brown hair; Ken, the father, in some strange shorty pajamas; and two adorable toddler twins, a boy and a girl, with hair like their mother's. Barbie looked somewhat normal despite her deformed, made-for-stilettos feet. And they were parents, and playing with them allowed me to daydream about becoming a mother someday.

When I visited my grandmother's house, I used to play with my aunt's old Barbies which were a couple of decades older than mine. I wondered at their slightly boyish figures and quirky freckles. They looked more true to life than my Barbies at home. A few years ago, I saw a veterinarian Barbie and thought it was a good idea. Wikipedia features a long list of Barbie's careers over the past few decades--but sadly, these career Barbies are not so prevalent anymore. It seems that the vast majority of Barbies today are made for the purpose of showing off blatantly unattainable figures and wearing teeny little outfits.

As a side note, my own parents bought me Barbies wearing tippy-toe high heels. Then they were surprised and annoyed when I started asking for high heels (from the time I learned to talk). The last argument my mother and I had over a pair of high heels was in high school. I was going to a semiformal and wanted to wear some extremely high strappy sandals, but my mom thought I should wear the plain granny shoes I wore for chorus performances. (I won.) But do little girls who never play with Barbies have such a yearning for high heels? Parents should give their daughters dolls they want them to emulate.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Barbie is the worst I've seen. It's not that I have anything against cheerleaders in general; it's just that this Barbie appears to have anorexia. No girl could ever reach the inadvisable goal of looking like this Barbie, and if she did she'd be deathly ill. This Barbie reaches new levels of thin. Her uniform looks like it might fall off. It makes me wonder if they thought classic Barbie's figure was a tad chunky to make the squad. I even looked up pictures of the real Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to compare, and they look like normal women. I don't understand why they'd make the Barbie look like this!

But don't let me tell you who to vote for. The other toys are equally ridiculous...

Baby Alive Learns to Potty--Yeah, she poops now. You can be changing a doll's stinky diapers for the low price of $60. Until you run out of diapers, at which point you'll have to pay $10 or so for a six pack to replace them. The reviews on the diapers are mostly negative, though--apparently they leak. Tee-hee.

Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade--I wouldn't drive a real one, and wouldn't want my kid driving a miniature one.

Lego Batman Video Game--I dislike most video games anyway, but, as the CCFC's website points out, aren't Legos supposed to be for creative building? Maybe I am confused.

Smart Cycle by Fisher Price--This is the least of the evils in my mind--particularly during the freezing winter months when children are forced to spend most of their free time indoors. Anyway, the argument goes that children should be riding their trikes to the park rather than pedaling after Dora and Diego on this thing. I can definitely appreciate that opinion.

You have until February 8th to vote!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Who needs cable TV when... have live entertainment?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Product Review: Itty Bitty Bookworm's Bailey Curriculum

Because I hope to homeschool Suzi one day, I was excited to review Itty Bitty's Bookworm's literature-based Bailey Curriculum (for toddlers and two-year-olds). They sent me the December CD, which contained a PDF file with all the plans. It was far more detailed and comprehensive than I'd ever expected. It didn't just include plans for activities centered around the books; there was a complete daily (and half-day) schedule outlined hour-by-hour with various songs and activities to reinforce age-appropriate skills. You can tell it was put together by experienced childhood educators (read about them in the FAQ)!

After calling the library and local used bookstore, I had to order the books online, but they were inexpensive and easy to find in good used condition. Our favorite was This Old Man. After I sang it for Suzi a few times she started to sing it herself, which was so cute! She had a good time coloring in the face of her "old man" we made with a paper plate. While she was coloring hers, I made one too and poked holes for the eyes so she could look through it as we sang the song. She got a kick out of that.

She also enjoyed making "music makers" out of cups and dried beans. Her favorite part was scooping up the beans and putting them in the cup--although she was quite put off when I tried to put the other cup on and tape them together. This, along with several other of her reactions, helped me realize I had to tailor the plans to suit her 19-month-old sensibilities. I allowed her a few extra minutes of pushing beans around with a spoon, and let her color a plain paper plate when she'd finished with her old man's face. I know she learns more when she is allowed to do her own thing and be creative.

We liked the two books, and I know Suzi will enjoy singing along with This Old Man for years to come. There are also plenty of animals and things to count in that book! She is coming right along with her counting, and we are so proud.

The Itty Bitty Bookworm's Bailey Curriculum would be great not only for homeschoolers, but also (and perhaps especially) for small preschools and in-home daycares. Many of the featured activities are best for a small group of children. I love how the curriculum precisely outlines the schedule and explains which skills are reinforced with each activity.

The Itty Bitty Bookworm specializes in curricula for children ages 18 months - 5 years. The program is affordable and discounts are given for subscriptions of 3-12 months. Go here to read over the options and order your curriculum now!